December 14, 2009

How Wikis Streamline Student Collaboration Projects

By: in Asynchronous Learning and Trends

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Utter the words “group project” and you’re likely to hear at least a few groans from your students. The reasons for their dislike of group work are many, but logistical difficulties of getting everyone together and lazy group members who don’t pull their own weight are two of the biggest complaints.

With wikis, you’re able to remove these two obstacles because wiki sites not only make collaboration a breeze, but they contain tracking tools that let instructors see who’s contributing to the project, and when they’re making those contributions.

In the recent online seminar, Designing an Effective Collaborative Wiki Project, Rhonda Ficek, Ph.D., director of instructional technology services at Minnesota State University Moorhead, provided an overview of the different types of wikis, the benefits of using them for group activities, and how to use a rubric to evaluate wiki-based projects.

Characteristics of Wikis
Ease of editing – There’s nothing to download and wikis don’t require any special technical skills. Students edit the documents using their standard web browser. No more having to email documents back and forth.

Revision history – The wiki tracks and stores the date, time and author of any changes. It also stores the older versions of documents, which can be pulled up at any time.

Content management – Wikis allow you to “tag” content and cross-link between pages, as well as create a table of contents to simplify the navigation and presentation of materials.

In the second portion of the seminar, Ficek provided a step-by-step tutorial on how to set up a wiki using WetPaint, including tips on creating template pages, editing content, and monitoring changes or updates.

“Wikis are very effective environment for group collaboration, but you still need to clearly define what you want your students to do, the purpose of the wiki project, and the expected outcomes – just like you would any other project,” says Ficek. “You also want to make sure students understand how they will be assessed.”

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